Friday, December 30, 2005

I Heart Gay Utah Senators

This guy rocks.

I checked. He's not single.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Teenagers, Want To Get Back At Your Parents?

Watch The Drunk Baby Here

This kid kicks ass. Although he looks a bit more like a pothead to me. It must be the feathery hair.

And Now From Constitutional Left Field

Last night I was thinking about taxes. More specifically, I was thinking about how Californians pay more to the federal government in taxes then they get back in services. There are a number of reasons for this having to do with government costs and population density; but the most important reason may very well be the Constitutional makeup of the Senate, which is one of the most undemocratic parliamentary bodies in the industrialized world.

Since the Constitution mandates two senators, and two only, to each state, smaller states are disproportionately represented. A Senator from Wyoming, with its population of about 600,000, has the same power in Congress as a Senator from California, who represents 30 million citizens. This is inherently unfair, and is one of the reasons that the Senate is so unrepresentative of the nation; it's far more rural, more conservative, and more white then America is.

Not to mention the money! Because of the makeup of the Senate, that cackling troll Ted Stevens has the power to siphon off half a billion bucks for his useless Alaska bridges, while here in California, our infrastructure crumbles. Barbara Boxer may be able to come up with half a billion in pork as well, but in California, that much money isn't going to fix the potholes on the 5. This simply means that two neighbors in, say, Lake Tahoe, whose properties are across the state line from each other, are represented in a drastically different manner in Washington. This is simply an injustice.

For years, political activists and Constitutional theorists have scratched their heads trying to come up with a solution that would allow the Senate makeup to be more evenly democratic, giving every citizen a more equal voice irregardless of geography. But, as with the discussion of jettisoning the Electoral College, they always run upon the same stumbling block. Changing the way the Senate is constituted would require amending the Constitution. This would require smaller states to vote to give up some of their political power, a proposition that goes against human nature, indeed.

But this morning I woke up with an idea that might get around the 3/4 impasse to amending the actual constitution. I can't claim that this idea is original, or hasn't been proposed before. But this was the first time it had occurred to me.

Don't change the way Senators are elected. Change the way they vote.

As it is now, each Senator has one vote. This is what creates the imbalance, because each Senator represents a different population. But what if instead of one hundred votes for one hundred senators, there were, say, one thousand votes? These votes would then be divided by population.

If we divided a thousand votes equally amongst one hundred Senators, each one would receive ten votes. But instead, votes would be assigned according to each state's population. So California, which contains 10% of the nation's population, would get one hundred votes, divided equally between its two Senators. Each would wield a population-appropriate 50 votes. Meanwhile, the Senators from Utah, which has about two million people, or roughly .6% of the nation's population, would split six votes (we would round it to the nearest even number, to prevent vote fragments).

Every ten years, when the Constitutionally mandated census is finished, these vote percentages would be re-aligned to reflect the changing demographics of the nation, in the same way that the House makeup is changed around after the census.

So, here's the linchpin. I'm no congressional scholar, so you'll have to help me out here. Is there any reason why this plan would require a constitutional amendment? Or would the Senate simply be able to change it's own internal rules to enact this? If so, that would be a lot easier then amending the constitution. You would still face an uphill fight in the Senate, but since such a change would automatically benefit half the Senate, all you would really have to do is sway a few key votes. But there have to be legal issues here. What about the Vice-President's tie-breaking role? What if the smaller states sued? Help me out here people with some conjuncture.

Because if it could work without amending the Constitution, this may be revolutionary. Our nation has always believed that all citizens should be equal before the law. That should be true, no matter which side of the state line you live on.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Suffer The Children

My dad's people are from Eufaula, Oklahoma, and thus I swelled with pride when I learned that one of Eufaula's enterprising small businessmen was manufacturing and advertising (in homeschooling magazines) an innovative new parenting product, The Rod:

What, might you say, is this "Ideal Tool for Child Training"?

That's right, it's a nylon whip for beating your kids.

Here's how the proud Oklahoman who manufactures this pint-sized torture device for the pre-teen set justifies his work in the Boston Globe:

''I'm one of these simple people," (Clyde) Bullock said. ''The Bible is what it is -- I'm not trying to change it. God is right. We have to have faith in that."

But is beating your children with the kind of apparatus usually found in a San Francisco S&M club really a good way to express your heartfelt faith? The most influential Christian leader in America apparently thinks so:

James Dobson, founder of the group Focus on the Family, one of the nation's prominent Christian evangelical organizations, has written about the proper use of spanking for children who willfully disobey parents, sanctioning the use of a "neutral" object such as a paddle in order for the hand to be reserved as "an object of love."

When used ''lovingly and properly," Dobson wrote on his website, corporal punishment is an effective tool to instill discipline and does not bring about lasting emotional damage to a child. "God created this mechanism as a valuable vehicle for instruction," he wrote.

Maybe James Dobson needs a "neutral" object shoved right up his pale white ass, as a "valuable vehicle" for instructing him what it's like to be powerless. Ya know, like a child.

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
-Luke 17:2


So we got this amazing feedback e-mail down at the clothing factory:

I like your rompers quite a bit. However as male I feel that I am missing out on all the fun. I recently saw Sean Connery don a blue terry cloth romper in the James Bond movie Goldfinger. I think that if James Bond can wear a romper, then I should be able to manromp as well. However the internet has been of no help in locating one. Do you have any plans to start making a men's romper? Would you consider it? I think that it could be a very popular item this summer. Thank you!

This is what he is talking about:

When the history of fashion is reviewed in some far future-times museum, may this article of clothing, the Manromp, stand proudly for our entire era. It's simply That Shitastically Good!

On a personal note, ever since I saw this movie when I was fourteen, I've kinda had a thing for terrycloth...

Scariest. Craigslist. Missed. Connection. Ever.

We met last night on the metro, you were from California and I pretended to be. As you were leaving our hands softly splashed together. Your fingers were like a waterfall of perspiration and I could almost see my reflection in the pool of sweat that had collected in your palm…it was magical. Sadly I never asked you for your number, I was nervous, but I realize now that we were made for each other for you see……I also am plagued by excessive hand sweat. I know the agony of constant hand washing, ruined keyboards, and terrified children. But together we could raise awareness and fight to end the persecution of hand sweaters everywhere. Hand in hand (with an appropriate amount of tissues in between) we could accomplish so much. Please contact me, don’t let this opportunity slip by just like so many glasses from your moist grasp.

Creepy props to Wonkette.

Can We Bring Back The Temperance Movement Next?

The two anti-gay marriage groups trying to get a queer-bashing initiative on the ballot in California next year has thrown in the towel.

What does it feel like to be part of a movement whose time has passed? Just ask Charles Socarides.

Freudian Slip

Charles Socarides is dead. The famously anti-gay quack makes a brief appearance in my film, where he is seen lecturing at Columbia on some footage shot in the 60's, spouting about how no homosexual can be "truly happy". Unfortunately, he never changed that point of view. The thrice-divorced doctor was adamant to the end about homosexuality being a mental disorder in the classic Freudian way, a disorder apparently suffered by his son Richard, who was the chief advisor to Bill Clinton on gay and lesbian issues.

It's sad to say that sometimes, the only way to get rid of a previous generation's bigotry is for it to just slowly die off, one closed mind at a time.

Jerry Falwell, is that the Rapture calling?

Feeling Troubled By Effeminancy?

Have you considered Hetracil, America's leading anti-effeminate? It's the help you need in your battle against Behavioral Effeminism and Male Homosexuality Disorder.

Time To Work On The Mustache

BAGHDAD—In a vast outpouring of gratitude to the man they call "Our Great Savior From The West," the people of Iraq flooded the polls during yesterday's first free elections, voting overwhelmingly for President George W. Bush as their first democratically elected leader.

Bush, who spent nearly half a trillion dollars of U.S. taxpayer money on his campaign, received a concession call from Abu Musaiya at 11:30 EST last night.

After the Bush landslide was announced on Al-Jazeera, ecstatic crowds chanted in the streets throughout the recently liberated nation: "Hail George Bush, the president of Iraq!"

"May Allah bless him and his children to the seventh generation!" shouted free Iraqi citizen Abdullah al-Hallasid, firing his gun into the air repeatedly and injuring seven U.S. soldiers. "At last, we are free!"

Bush, who surged in the polls after all of the other candidates were killed by either coalition forces or insurgents in the final week leading up to the election, characterized his victory as the dawn of democracy in the Middle East, and proof that the system works.

Fiction not as strange as truth, brought to you by the Onion, naturally.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What's The Matter With Kansas?

Kansas teenager gets repeatedly abused at school, constantly called a faggot. It gets so bad, he drops out. He sues the school board for not protecting him and wins. Almost half a million bucks.

The best part? He's not even gay!

Not that it matters. The other kids perceived him that way, and that is why he was abused. Besides, half a million bucks seems like just about the right compensation for what they subject you to in Kansas schools these days. Time to put those Intelligent Design textbooks up on E-bay!

You Know Who's Also Not Gay?

Ricky Martin, that's who.

Pics courtesy of Defamer. And yes, I know it's his half-brother. But look at it. Look at it!

Three Chords And The Truth

So on Christmas I read Chris Willman's new book Rednecks and Bluenecks. Chris is a frequent Nashville reporter for Entertainment Weekly, and after the political explosion over the anti-Bush comments of Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines during a London concert two years ago, he decided to write a book about the place of politics in country music. It's a fast, entertaining read about my two favorite subjects.

In "objective journalist" fashion, Chris spends time talking to folks on both sides of the red-blue equation. Both sides, it turns out, are well represented in Nashville. While it is true that mainstream country music has been widely embraced as "feedback music" on the right, where rock-adverse Republicans can turn to hear songs with lyrics reflecting the exact same opinions they already have, it's also true that musicians (and even music executives) are usually a pretty liberal bunch. Willman skillfully gets both camps to open up.

The interviews with conservative musicians are fascinating as case studies of different conservative mind sets, from the ya-ya populist ignorance of Toby Keith, to the off-putting church-lady double-speak of Sarah Evans, to the biting neo-con bluster of Ronnie Dunn. The stories of how some of the post 9/11 "patriotic" country songs came into being are filled with the juicy back-stage details of how propaganda is made, each song conjuring up a queasy mixture of overt emotional manipulation, righteous indignation, heartfelt conviction, and flat-out chart-humping, market-segment-hunting greed. It's absolutely insidious. I remember last Christmas, standing in a grocery store in Orange County that had its sound system set to a country station; over the speakers came a remix of Darryl Worley's hideous Have You Forgotten with actual audio from actual George Bush speeches cut into it. I shuddered at the thought of some kind of deep-fried corn-pone Ursprache.

That's when I noticed that the woman in front of me in the check-out line was mouthing the words and crying like a maniac.

Willman also explores the more liberal world of "alt-country", the anti-mainstream neo-traditional sub-genre that has flourished in recent years, with Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris serving as progressive godparents. Earle's bitter, almost conspiratorial rantings serve as a great reminder of what alienation can take from a man. When he comments about no longer being proud to be from Texas, you just imagine this lonely political refugee wandering the cold blue streets of New York, telling himself that he's happy, while deep down he picks at the scab over his heart.

What may be the most interesting thing about the book is when Willman talks to those artists who transcend the politics of red and blue; unabashed liberal Willie Nelson recounting both how he smoked pot on the roof of the White House during the Carter Administration, and how much he enjoys working with Toby Keith; and Merle Haggard, a man who was made rich and famous by penning two anthems of conservative America, Okie From Muskogee and The Fighting Side Of Me, but who now tours with Bob Dylan and addresses the question of his voting record by recalling that, as a convicted felon for much of his life he wasn't allowed to vote, and even after Ronald Reagan pardoned him, he never took up the habit.

My only disappointment was how Willman carefully avoided an overall judgment on the actual quality of Conservative vs. Liberal music. Willman wants to stay objective, and so, instead of just coming out and stating that he finds most overtly conservative songs to be musical rubbish, he only allows himself to hint. His devastating critique of Clint Black's Iraq and Roll aside, I wish that Willman had pointed out how seriously bad most right-preaching country is; smarmy, button-pushing songs that sound like they were produced in a studio where Karl Rove sat behind the mixing board cackling "Now bring in the swelling chorus".

The truth that Willman does address is that liberal musicians, such as those in the alt-country universe, are more interested in being artists, while Nashville's flag wavers are more interested in being stars. While you may find someone like Steve Earle's baying left-wing politics a bit cloying, a song like John Walker's Blues is a better, more musically interesting piece of music then anything contained in the wretched oeuvre of a man like Darryl Worley. Simply put, talent leans left. Thus on the few occasions when actual musical goodness aligns with a conservative, or conservative-friendly message, the result is almost certainly a surefire hit. Okie From Muskogee and the anti-urban Country Boy Can Survive by Bocephus himself are powerful examples of what happens when good music meets reactionary rhetoric. Amongst other things, cash registers ring. If Nashville really wanted to make money off of middle America, they would shitcan all the talentless hacks in their stables currently penning assembly-line Red White and Blue, and instead direct all their resources towards luring, say, Lyle Lovett or Gillian Welch into the Republican fold.

In the end, talent also wins out. However don't count on Nashville to mend its ways soon. They're getting by too well on the old formula. After all, a nation that would settle for George Bush is undoubtedly willing to swallow a bit of studio-orchestrated pseudo-populist twangy excrement now and then with hardly a touch of indigestion.

Which brings us back to the Dixie Chicks. Their first two records were over-produced fluff. Right before they offended every God-fearing Bush-lover in America, they had recorded a little acoustic album called Home, that was actually quite good. Spare, stripped down bluegrass tinged music, without the typical Nashville drum machine bluster. I think that what really hung them out to dry wasn't their off-the-cuff comments, but rather, their decision to put the music first. Artists who do so often start thinking for themselves. These days, especially in Nashville, that's a dangerous thing.

Still and all, welcome home girls. I'm glad you came in from the cold. And remember, if they give you a hard time, there is one time-tested country response:

I Heart The Boss

"... We forget that every adult was brought up on fairy tales so it's natural to go on and, politically for example, want to believe that your President is a nice, honest man. The inability to turn to an adult perspective once you get to the age where you have some political weight is a great tragedy, and this is a period of history when it seems the most obvious type of disguise is on display to the entire world and yet those are the people who are still in power."

-Bruce Springsteen, from this month's Mojo Magazine

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Friggin' Cristmas

Peace on Earth, unless you're one of them dirty A-rabs. Or a Democrat. Then Jesus hates you, and Santa too.

Friday, December 23, 2005

One Compelling Argument Against Heroin Use

Brad Renfro:

Brad Renfro yesterday, at the tender age of 23:


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bah Humbug Indeed

Christopher Hitches sodomizes the season good.

This was a useful demonstration of what I have always hated about the month of December: the atmosphere of a one-party state. On all media and in all newspapers, endless invocations of the same repetitive theme. In all public places, from train stations to department stores, an insistent din of identical propaganda and identical music. The collectivization of gaiety and the compulsory infliction of joy. Time wasted on foolishness at one's children's schools. Vapid ecumenical messages from the president, who has more pressing things to do and who is constitutionally required to avoid any religious endorsements.

Light Blogging

Sorry boys and girls. I'm out sick. Regular blogging to soon continue.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Judicial Bitch Slap

....Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on I(ntelligent) D(esign), who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.


The Three Scariest Words In The English Language

Heat Packin' Jesus

I had to steal this from Savage Love. I think it's now my offical mascot of the religious right. Except, of course, for Republican Jesus.

One Way For You New Yorkers To Pass The Time

Courtesy of Gawker.

Nobody Likes Their Big Brother

Even conservative legal scholars think that Bush's illegal wiretaps may be an impeachable offense:

NORM ORNSTEIN, American Enterprise Institute scholar: I think if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed.

Hey George, that flapping white flag your motorcade just blew past? That was The Pale.

Props to Aravosis.

Must Be In Murray Hill

This NYC street sign courtesy of Jalopnik.

Terrorists=Pesky Homosexuals

A secret Pentagon document obtained by NBC News reveals that the military has been spying on what they call "suspicious" civilian meetings - including many "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" protests.

Only eight pages from the four-hundred page document have been released so far. But on those eight pages, Sirius OutQ News discovered that the Defense Department has been keeping tabs NOT just on anti-war protests, but also on seemingly non-threatening protests against the military's ban on gay servicemembers. According to those first eight pages, Pentagon investigators kept tabs on April protests at UC-Santa Cruz, State University of New York at Albany, and William Patterson College in New Jersey. A February protest at NYU was also listed, along with the law school's gay advocacy group "OUTlaw," and was classified as "possibly violent."

All of these protests were against the military's policy excluding gay personnel, and against the presence of military recruiters on campus. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says the Pentagon needs to explain why "don't ask, don't tell" protesters are considered a threat.

SLDN Communications Director Steve Ralls calls the surveillance a 'dangerous step.' "The military has a long history of spying into the personal lives of their servicemembers, including gay and lesbian servicemembers, but they crossed yet another line, and an inappropriate one at that, when they began spying on private citizens. "

The database indicates that the Pentagon has been collecting information about protesters and their vehicles, looking for what they call a "significant connection" between incidents. Of the four "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" protests listed, only one - U-C Santa Cruz, where students staged a "gay kissing" demonstration - is classified as a "credible" threat.

All i can say is,
Jesus. Mother. Fucking. Christ.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Gay Marriage Reaches The UK

Somehow, this is exactly how I imagined it would be:

The poncy matrimony was met by some, ehm, uniquely British protests:

Pics courtesy of Towleroad.

New Favorite Word

Courtesy of Gawker:

A Bridge Too Far

In 1965, a group of 600 civil rights activists left a church in Selma, Alabama, for a protest march of 50 miles to the state capital, Montgomery. While crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were viciously attacked by State Troopers.

Those images were seared into the nation's collective mind.

Three days after Katrina made landfall, the police in the New Orleans suburb of Gretna stood on another bridge, the Louisiana Connector. Firing shotguns into the air, they turned away the mostly black citizens trying to leave New Orleans for their mostly white suburb.

Tonight's Sixty Minutes piece was one of those bits of good journalism that just tells the story, with no spin. The facts are bad enough. When you hear Gretna's mayor talk about the "criminal element" in New Orleans, you know that we have once again returned, like a dog to its vomit, to our original American sin. The sin of color and its consequences.

Selma, Lord, Selma.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

iPod Kismet

The genius and power of the iPod (and by which I mean the MP3 player, but let's admit it, Apple, like Band-Aid and Coke, has pulled off the ultimate marketing coup of having its product synonymous with a thing)is that it has dramatically increased the odds of good kismet, of the fortuitous chance that the right music will arrive at the right moment. We program these things with music that we find emotionally resonant, and then, when the fates align, that resonance rings true with circumstance, and we have the perfectly scored moment, the multimedia life. We are able to do this with intention, by picking the song to fit the experience, but what is more powerful is when the experience is shaped by the good fortune of the shuffle button. It is the shuffle button, the random-making function that turns the iPod, like the automobile or the skyscraper, from a tool into a talisman.

I stepped out tonight to walk the dog, in the nearly full-moon shadows of an L.A. evening, and as I descended the stairs to the shade-wrapped street the stinging sadness of Jeff Buckley's melancholy Hallelulah poured into my ears, the perfect song for the menacing loneliness of a night time Winter's walk. I wandered along until I came to the square mystery of the Museum Gate.

As I leaned against the railing in the dark, the spare sexual sadness of that song gave way the the sweeter twang of Steve Earle's Transcedental Blues, a piece that has its dark tones as well, but that finds a content resolution, an Eastern acceptance. The song propelled me back onto the street, back into the hazy yellow light of the occasional sodium streetlamp. As I turned towards home, the shuffle worked its role of the dice and next came Beautiful Way by Beck, a druggy, slyly humorous tune that, with its perfectly aligned antecedents, had taken me into a whole different mood then when I had made my first steps of the evening. Somehow, it all came together in a way beyond words, a way that lifted and changed my emotion.

Music can add a whole layer of meaning to a moment. These are the unexpected ways that technology changes our lives, by allowing us to make and live a new form of art. The art of the perfectly timed musical/geographical/experiential moment.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Hard Sell

Well, the long-overdue change in White House strategy is finally here. First, the President goes in his repetitive Iraq stump, like he just read the chapter on "repetition" from a telemarketer's handbook. Then there was today's televised radio address, where Bush answered the New York Times's revelations about the N.S.A.'s warrantless spying on Americans, with an unapologetic admission that bordered on bluster. Guess what, that's gonna be their new strategy.

It's reprehensible. And it's gonna work.

Americans, especially Conservatives, love bluster. Remember this asshole:

Our tolerance for an otherwise embarrassing level of bluster is a twisted offshoot of our national love of rebels, bad boys, and rule breakers. Forget that there is nothing rebellious about power-hungry neo-cons breaking the law; after all, these guys aren't flaunting the rules because justice compels them to fight for the oppressed; on the contrary, they seek only more power through their "creative destruction". But they know that if they proudly claim the mantle of rebel and lay claim to some "higher morality" that compels them to rule breaking, there are those who will buy it. Bluster, and its jackass cousin braggadocio (see Rush Limbaugh) riles up a very vocal element within the American electorate. Let's call it the Asshole vote.

From now on, when the Democrats say "you broke the law" expect them to say "You're damn right we did! And we'd do it again to protect America". What do they have to lose? The reason this tactic met with only mixed success for the Reagan Administration was that their bluster was eventually ground down under the relentless momentum of the legal proceedings launched by Congress. What are the chances that the current House will open an investigation of Bush's illegal use of the N.S.A.?

Richard Nixon famously said that "It's not illegal if the President does it". Bush legal flack John Yoo has created a pseudo-constitutional framework to argue the same thing. From now on expect each charge against the Administration, short of a clear-cut criminal code violation, to be answered with just such adolescent bluster. No excuses, no apologies, no admission of guilt. Only a defiant stance and a puffed-up chest.

A nation addicted to professional wrestling just might buy it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Weekend Homework

My friend Davey the Crazy Irishman, who works at a certain hip media empire that shall not be named, had this recent enlightening exchange with me on the meaning of place and autheticity in the West, sparked by my BrokeBack Mountain review. If you like, especially if you live in the West, chew on it over the weekend and let me know what you think.


Hey, I loved your post on Brokeback Mountain. I've yet to see it myself; I rarely ever drag my ass out to the movies, and I can honestly say that I don't watch enough TV. Both of those activities have always been driven by girlfriends, and seeing as my only romantic relationship right now is with my ex in the Bay whose got another guy and I've been up to my ass in work, that doesn't leave a lot of time for anything other than weekend romance, and even that's gotta be discreet.

So with the as-dramatic-as-any-queer-triangle I've ever been complained to about bit outta the way, I wanted to address that "stranger in the west" feeling you had after the film. I totally get it myself. I grew up in Sacto. There used to be ranches in within the five miles between my parents' house and my grandparents' place. Now it's all retirement homes, cookie-cutter developments and strip malls. A week ago, I was hanging out with Mike Watt and he took me deep into Peck Park here in Pedro and pointed down into the Tarragona development, which supplanted the projects that d. boon grew up in. And in some ways, we can say, "Well, they were able to tear down the projects and put in something nicer." Yes. All well and good in the 1970s, in a way, when there was housing in LA that yeah, was pricier than the rest of the US, but not so out of whack when the rest of the country that it was ridiculous. But now anywhere you'd remotely wanna live is that way. From the East Bay to Sacto to Pedro. I mean, at least I'm in under a grand a month here in a relatively decent neighborhood in a cute apartment that could be ridiculously adorable with a bit of work. And I love it here. But I still walk outside sometimes and think, "Am I supposed to be here?" But I felt like that in Sacto. I felt like that in Austin. I felt like that in Northern Ireland in the spring. It's simultaneously so flawed and so perfect, you have to take it as a part of life, I think. Some of that's what I wrote yesterday to my ex about our relationship. Because she can't decide between me and some guy in 'Bama she's spent a couple of weeks with. And while that sounds simple, "Uh, duh, Los Angeles, cuter boy who spells better and is packing more," it's not that simple. And that's the mystery of the West, man. It's not shitty weather and provincial accents like the East or the Midwest. It's a wide-openness that requires more of a mind to get a true handle on. I realized that after seeking authenticity in Tejas. It's only that the artifice is less advanced, not that the good people are less authentic. There's a charm in that, yes, but is there a life in that? In retirement? Sure. Until then, I'm throwing in my lot with California, because I'm a pussy and can't take the cold.




What you say about “authenticity” is totally true. The feeling I get in the West is that we live on the land, not in the land. Sometimes, in California, it’s easy to feel nostalgic for more “settled places”, especially if you have roots in the South. Part of what I love about visiting Texas and Oklahoma and Louisiana is that it’s a kind of attempt to re-connect to something older. When I was down in Texas and Oklahoma filming my movie last year, it was quite an experience to see these places through the lens of a camera, with a forced objectivity. I realized how much of what I thought about the South was the result of my own desires for “authenticity”. But authenticity, I’ve learned, is a frame of mind, not a place or product. You can’t buy it or move to it. You can seek out others who share your ideas, but in the end, we create our own Authenticity. I feel now that I can live anywhere. While I get an electric shock when I’m in New York that I love, and while I sometimes crave an empty space on the wide plain, it’s up to me. There is no Nirvana, just what we can build with people we love.

Like you said, I don’t want to grow old in Los Angeles. I want my cabin on the prairie or the shore someday, with my books and tinkering. But until then, we must try and create authentic space. I became involved with the gay-friendly rugby team in L.A. in an attempt to carve out an authentic space for guys to be who they are as men, in a community that teaches us and pressures us to be otherwise, from both sides. I love hanging out with the friends I made there, and with my Texas friends, because there is a little less artifice. Not that it doesn’t exist on some level, but at least we know each other well enough to call each other on our bullshit!

L.A. is famously about artifice, a studio backlot of a town that erases its history in a constant Disney search for the contemporary idea of happiness. But there is an esthetic underground as well, a counter-movement. Some of the strands you might see include the experimental art and music scenes, the crazy architectural preservationists fighting their obscure fights for history, the car customizers that take the ultimate mass-produced product and turn it into a form of rolling personal expression, the immigrant communities that graft cultures hundreds of years old into this alkaline soil; indeed all the kids that try and create public space and conversation against the grain of an entire city designed to isolate the individual. There are unbelievably authentic people here, just like everywhere else.

I have this dream of authentic places, of New York as true cultural capital of constant movement, of the South as history-drenched place of belonging. But I’ve spent enough time in these places to know that they are just dreams, dreams I might want to pick up again some day, dreams that haunt me until I spend hours after midnight on the internet searching for affordable Brooklyn apartment listings and land for sale in the mountains above Taos. Maybe I’ll follow one of those dreams, if like Ennis and Jack in Brokeback Mountain, I just can’t shake it. But for now, I’m trying to live in this world, man.



Yeah, I get what you mean in a large way about "on the land" vs. in the land, although I think that's different on the northern coast of California, and definitely different in Oregon. Oregon may be the most "of the land" place I've been in the West, and it makes sense that a lot of my friends have either moved up there or are planning to move up there. Ironically, Washington strikes me much more like Northern California.

Other than my Austin maneuver, I never moved toward authenticity, in a sense. I moved in what I perceived as its general direction with ten years in the East Bay, but I never lived on the other side of what they like to call "The Culture-Cut Tunnel." And ultimately, why would I? To be crowded in San Francisco? For the nebulous cred of Alameda County? There're only three "cool" addresses in the entire Bay Area, and they're Berkeley, Oakland and SF proper. I never lived in any of 'em, and while I felt a bit inadequate about that when I was young, why should I care? I lived in some gorgeous parts of the Bay; I lived two houses from the water in Benicia. Try that on the combined income of a store manager and a graphic designer in San Francisco and see what it gets you. Plus, the town spawned one of the greatest pop-punk bands of all time — Pinhead Gunpowder.

And that's part of what I'm dealing with with my ex right now. Her new guy seems decent, but he's stuck where he is. I don't really see him going any farther than being a freelance web designer and hanging out with his friends in Birmingham. Yet she loves me, she loves him, and she's torn between apartment life in Los Angeles (Long Beach would be an easy transfer for her) and the romance and lower cost of living of the South. But you know, when my mom moved to Sacramento (she was a nun and they sent her up there from Pacific Palisades), she thought, "Ugh. I hate this place. There're no hills." Even when she first came to America, she was in Long Beach (which she didn't care for, either) out in Signal Hill, so there was something. And the Sacramento of 1970 is much more to my liking than the sprawling mess of now. At least LA sprawl has some character, whether it's the craftsman bungalows of Pasadena, the craziness of the Strip, or the largely-ignored history of a town like Pedro — which to me, somewhat epitomizes everything about LA without being LA at all...there're crews filming here all the time, yet there're a lot of immigrants, and the ghetto parts aren't scarily ghetto. It's sort of its own little microcosm.

But I made that change. I moved to the South and came back with a broken heart and an empty wallet. There was no romance in it. I still love Central Texas. But the life you have is where you make it, for sure. My mom went from the verdant hills of Northern Ireland to the flats of the Central Valley. I've always admonished people against moves when they're depressed. Then again, I knew I had to go to Austin to learn some lessons, and I learned what I knew I was going there to learn, just not in the way I expected.


The Weekend

I'll be at MJ's in Silverlake tonight if any of you L.A. blog readers want to stop by. DJ Paul V will be hosting mashups. Look for the big guy with the funny beard. Not that that will help you at MJ's!

Other then that, I'll spend my weekend taking down the American Apparel 12 Days of Hanukkah Advent Calender and trying to find a roommate on Craigslist. Drop me a line if you need a place in L.A.'s coolest neighborhood, Mt. Washington.

Thanks to all you cats out there for checking in with LeftCoastBreakdown. The blog has become an obsession, and the Sitemeter is my new porn.


R.I.P. Steely Resolve

When I was a kid, I seem to remember that conservatives professed a belief in limited government. I can't imagine what Barry Goldwater would make of today's story in the New York Times revealing that the President directly authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans at home.

The NSA was created to monitor communications overseas, primarily Soviet communications. They had many successes, including using an American submarine to tap a Soviet cable in the sea floor, and intercepting encrypted messages from Russian Embassies. This was a spy agency. But after September 11th, President Bush authorized them to tap the communications of Americans calling and e-mailing overseas. This was a sea change in their mission, and probably an illegal one.

Do conservatives have so little faith in America, in our way of life, that they will respond to one terrorist attack by dropping our nation's principles and running screaming for the nearest high-tech bunker? Are we so unsure of ourselves that we can be panicked into violating our own laws by a handful of men with boxcutters?

When the tube was bombed this year, the British reacted as they have always reacted, with reserve and (true) conservative restraint. The administration responded to Spetember 11th with all the restraint of a wounded elk. It's beyond embarrassing.

It's dangerous.

Remember that the next time you dial Paris or Tokyo or Montreal.

More Gay Cowboys

Here's some nice thoughts about the politics of BrokeBack Mountian. The writer makes a good point about the movie being about men, not gay men, but the complex relationships between men, with all the attendant expectation, competition, and unverbalized emotions. In that, I can't help but compare the story to the layered friendship between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin in Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander novels, a real study of the emotional lives of men. They too were in love, though there was nothing "gay" about it. Maybe what is the most powerful things about the film, and the scariest, is how it shows the emotional power men can have over each other. The sex is incidental.

Two Soldiers In Love

Here's the blog posting as one of them ships out. Maybe we should follow Plato's advice and form military units out of all gay couples!

Courtesy of Sullivan.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The War On Christmas, A Dispatch From The Front Lines

Courtesy of Mr. Sun.

Straight Crybabies

Mickey Kaus is this longtime blogger who lives in, of all awful places, Santa Monica. A fellow who mistakes reflexive contrariness towards his P.C. liberal neighbors for a virtue, he doesn't want to see Brokeback Mountain because his genes are somehow offended by it. He believes his revulsion to men kissing is genetic, and he shouldn't be criticized for it thus. This passes for enlightenment to him.

Listen ya jerks, I've had to watch straight people lock lips my entire life. It doesn't revolt me, because I'm, ehem, used to it. You need to get used to the fact that, yes, gay people engage in the occasional PDA as well. Watching Mickey bloviate about his pseudo-Darwinian ick factor on this videoblog is what really makes me queasy. He even trots out the old trope of the bathhouse as the gay male archetype.

Maybe I and some other dirty homos should just sit around bullshitting on video about our genetically programmed aversion to watching straight, nebbish, balding, West Side Jewish intellectuals have dissatisfactory marital sex with their shrill, castrating wives.

Don't tell me it's not personal when you say that watching me give my boyfriend a kiss makes you sick. You need to get over yourselves and learn how to take it like a man. By the way, I wonder how Mickey feels about the lesbians making out? Undoubtedly, what I suppose would be his normal hearty straight-guy appoval somehow disproves his homophobia, right? I guess they're the "good" kind of gay.

Bite me , breeders.

It Will Be Mine

I'm 35. My credit is terrible. I owe 35 grand in student loans for my hideously expensive, entirely useless, but still beloved education. I'll never, ever be able to do this. But oh, how I want to.

Oh No, They've Got Jackie Mason!

The secret weapon of the Christmas Defenders has been launched:

Representing a Jewish organization that defends Christians, comedian Jackie Mason will ride down New York City’s 5th Avenue today to highlight the “war on Christmas.”

Mason is a founding member of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, or JAACD, the organization sponsoring the event. According to a statement from the group, the entertainer will ride in a 15-foot Ford Excursion with banners proclaiming, “Jews for ‘It’s OK To Say Merry Christmas.’”

Jackie Mason, forever expelled from the International Jew-Queer Anti-Christmas Consiracy.

Love to Gawker.

Why I Love My Job

Because we make underwear like this:

Speaking Of Self-Righteous Mormons

They're after the gay-straight alliances in Utah again. Apparently, having a gay discussion group is analogous to having a "marijuana club". Because, like, being gay is so illegal.

P.S. They already have high school marijuana clubs. They're called shop class.

Praise To The Man

Sanctimonious gay marriage hater and great-grandson of polygamists Mitt Romney is giving up his re-election bid because he wants to run for President. And because he probably wouldn't be re-elected.

If you want to know what a Mormon Ward would feel like on a national scale, go ahead and elect this blow-dry scold President. Think of all the money we would save. We could replace welfare with Deseret Industries thrift stores, use the A.T.F. to ban all liqour, tabacco, and coffee sales, and replace the National Institutes of Health with the laying on of hands.

As only an ex-Mormon can say, yikes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Brokeback Swag

One of the great things about living in L.A. is the free Hollywood swag. Brokeback Mountain is being promoted with these Navy Blue Hankies:

Silly publicists, don't they know that the hanky code for cowboys is Rust?

Courtesy of Defamer.

If Fox News Had Been Around When...

A bit of "what if"...

And I Thought I Was Bitter
Best. Rant. Ever.

Watch Out For A Hurricane To Strike Detroit

Ford gives it up like a Puerto Rican sissyboy in Cell Block D.

Seriously, this is cool. Not to read to much into it, but we must not give an inch to the professional bigots, no matter how they whine and threaten. If they can't be ignored, they have to be slapped down publicly, like this. Cry bitter tears, Donnie Wildmon. Tiny bitter tears.

Speaking Of American Apparel...

We're now officially in Chelsea. Let the muscle shirt buying begin!

Your Cheatin' Heart

Sullivan, after finally seeming to have gotten over his back-door man, once again has a hard-on for G.W. Bush.

It what point does this soap opera cycle of infatuation, disallusionment and reconciliation qualify as domestic abuse? It's begun to look a lot like...

He's bad for you Andrew. Trust us. We only say so because we love you.

Rudolph's A Total Power-Bottom

Ladies and gentlemen, my gentle employer American Apparel has now been officially spoofed on the Daily Show:

Talk about your War On Christmas. Score one for the Secular Liberal Reindeer-Sodomizin' Elite!

Found On Road Dead

The Holmes Report, a trade publication that covers advertising and pr agencies, gives it to Ford in an article about their new-found homophobia satirically entitled:

Under Pressure From KKK, Ford Pulls Ads From Black Media.

John Stewart was ridiculing the company as well last night. See what happens when you wimp out to bigots? Here's the key quote:

Forty years ago, at the height of the civil rights struggle, the KKK had about the same economic influence, popular support and moral authority the American Family Association enjoys today. It’s hard to imagine that Ford then would have negotiated with the Klan, far less given it an excuse to claim victory. The company’s surrender to the AFA tells you all you need to know about the quality of leadership at Ford today.

Even a company founded by that old anti-semite Henry Ford must wonder some about its long-term legacy. Why would they wish to be caught on the wrong side of history? I guess this is what happens when you hire Republican flunkies as executives.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong and in fifty years they'll be hanging queers from the Tyburn Tree again.

All thanks to John for leading us to the barricades.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Irreversible Justice

Tookie Williams is dead.

Forget about him. It was a mistake to make him a poster boy. I remember having nightmares about him as a kid, after reading about his trial for the murder of that Chinese family in their motel. His picture was terrifying to me as a child. He was guilty, and he wouldn't admit it. I opposed his execution because I think that the death penalty is deeply flawed, but his case was practically a primer in why we should execute people. His legacy lives on in the gang violence that still shatters the streets of my city. Good riddance to him. If is wasn't for his celebrity friends and outsize macho reputation as Crips shotcaller, no one would have really cared if he withered away in prison or not.

If on the other hand, you want a real poster boy against the death penalty, look at this case in, where else, Mississippi:

Cops mistakenly break down the door of a sleeping man, late at night, as part of drug raid. Turns out, the man wasn't named in the warrant, and wasn't a suspect. The man, frightened for himself and his 18-month old daughter, fires at an intruder who jumps into his bedroom after the door has been kicked in. Turns out that the man, who is black, has killed the white son of the town's police chief. He's later convicted and sentenced to death by a [majority] white jury. The man has no criminal record, and police rather tellingly changed their story about drugs (rather, traces of drugs) in his possession at the time of the raid.

The story gets more bizarre from there.

This is what appears to have happened to one Cory Maye. The man defended his home in the dark of night from intruders who banged down his door. He wasn't a drug dealer (he lived in a duplex and his next-door neighbor was the one named on the warrant) and he had no criminal record. He had no reason to believe that the men who barged into his house were not out for harm.

Yet today, Cory Maye sits on the Mississippi death row.

This is who we should care about.

The credit on this one goes to Libertrian blogger Radley Balko at the, gulp Cato Institute (don't say it three times in the mirror, or Ayn Rand will come to get you). Talk about bringing your Red and Blue together.

The Company You Keep

New polling shows that Rick Santorum's support of the President is hurting him in his home state. This Fundamentalist studmuffin is now the most vulnerable member of the Senate going into re-election.
Couldn't of happened to a nicer guy.

Hardly Even A Rumor...

But a poster on Americablog in one of the comments section is claiming this:

My cousin is an assistant at a BIG law firm in DC. Word is that they have been hired as additional legal defense for a certain piggy named Rove. Indictment is expected Friday or December 21st (next Weds.) at the latest...

I trust my cousin. She is not political and has no clue about the case. She was just passing on what she heard in meetings and the water cooler....

I am getting excited.....

Take it for the entirely anonymous tidbit that it is.

The OG Flophouse

My favorite New York crash-pad, the Hotel Chelsea,
now has a dedicated blog. When I was there last June, I asked for the room where Gore Vidal fucked Jack Kerouac. They regretted to inform me that the knowledge of which room exactly that was had been lost to the mists of time, but instead they were delighted to provide me with the room that had just been used to film the gay sex scene in Kinsey between Ralph Fiennes and Peter Skarsgaard.

Close enough.

Best. Correction. Ever.

From the Denver Daily News:

The Denver Daily News would like to offer a sincere apology for a typo in Wednesday’s Town Talk regarding New Jersey’s proposal to ban smoking in automobiles. It was not the author’s intention to call New Jersey ‘Jew Jersey.’

Props to Gawker.

Yet Another Reason For The Right To Bear Arms

The War On Christmas!!! continues, courtesy of Sadly No!

Consumer Impulse

Since I now work in Marketing, I have an even greater appreciation for a well-made, funny ad. Check out this short film for Honda. It's genius.

Heads-up to Jalopnik.

Good News From NoLa

Locals are doing their best to get things back on track. We need to help them.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The King Of Bad Analogies.

George Bush goes off in Philadelphia and claims that what's happening in Iraq is their version of the American Revolution.

He's right. And we're the fucking English.

Best. Headline. Ever.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have found my future husband:

The World's Most Popular Gay Postmodern Harpsichord Nerd.

Courtesy of Queerty.

The First Casualty

Ya know how the Right always complains about how the mainstream media only reports "The Bad News" from Iraq? Well, can you imagine how much worse that news might be if it weren't for the 1200 men and women of the Fourth Psychological Operations Group, who are valiantly striving day and night to crank out pro-American propaganda for anonymous consumption across the Middle East. Did you know that we have thirty radio stations in Afghanistan, none of which identify themselves as being controlled be the American government?

Now if we could just do that, in, say, San Francisco. After all, with the Chronicle dying, someone's got to lie to those hippies!

Jazz Funeral

I can't say it better then this editorial today in the NY Times:

We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum...

The rumbling from Washington that the proposed cost of better levees is too much has grown louder. Pretending we are going to do the necessary work eventually, while stalling until the next hurricane season is upon us, is dishonest and cowardly. Unless some clear, quick commitments are made, the displaced will have no choice but to sink roots in the alien communities where they landed...

Total allocations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror have topped $300 billion. All that money has been appropriated as the cost of protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. But what was the worst possible case we fought to prevent?

Losing a major American city...

If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.

Our nation would then look like a feeble giant indeed. But whether we admit it or not, this is our choice to make. We decide whether New Orleans lives or dies.

I am overwhelmed. Some part of me wants to move to NoLa and raise my flag, to dedicate myself to helping right an historic and contemporary wrong. But what could I do? We have weapons systems that cost more then the levees the government is balking at paying for, but they roll ahead. We talk bullshit about protecting America, and stand as a city is lost. Every single person in this country should feel the stone of shame in their belly. We chose safety over freedom in democratic elections, and now are, as Jefferson predicted, left with neither.

Maybe we should let New Orleans turn into a ghost town. Like some mystical kingdom from the Bible, it may be that God took it from us because we no longer deserved to have it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Honor Thy Father...

So, 87-year-old journalistic legend Mike Wallace recently gave an interview where he was asked about George Bush's refusal to sit down with him on 60 Minutes. He suggested that the election of Bush, a man with no foreign policy experience, was an indication that America was fucked up. Harsh words indeed, but not so out of line for a man legendary for his bluntness.

His son, Chris Wallace, is also a journalist. Or rather, he's one of the blow-dry boys over at Fox. Junior must be working out his inadequacy issues, because he recently gave an interview as well, in which he intimated his father had "lost it" and that the family might be needing to have a "competency hearing" soon.

That's one hearing I'd love to attend.

Chris Wallace then went on to compare Howard Dean's recent comments about not being able to win in Iraq to the WWII propaganda of Tokyo Rose.

Well, let's see. Tokyo Rose was the lickboot lackey of a deeply corrupt and militaristic imperial power, ruled by a wealthy insular elite, who lead their nation into war in an attempt to secure important natural resources, while claiming to an ill-informed public that their aggression was a matter of aggrieved national pride.

Chris Wallace is a Fox News anchor.

NoLa Redux

Tulane University in New Orleans has announced that it is laying off ten percent of its staff to deal with the financial damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Why is one of the great institutions of the South being forced to lay off its staff, while the Federal Government does so very little? It's been one hundred days, and while the misery in New Orleans doesn't go away, the politicans who run this nation are occupied with the War On Christmas.

Jesus, can't someone in Washington write a fucking check? 100 million for paid propaganda in Baghdad, and no money for Tulane. My mom, who has mostly voted Republican through her life, called me in disgust over how we're shafting New Orleans. Does this country suffer from ADD?

Our Little Boy Is Getting So Big!

I tried to stay up last night to watch my hit counter roll over the 20,000 mark. I know, I'm a dork. These are my exciting Saturday nights! James Dobson must be horribly disappointed to know that I'm not attending drug-fueled barebacking orgies where gay men plot the War On Christmas while cooking and devouring Christian babies.

But while I finally threw in the towel at around 2am, I went to bed with the satisfaction of knowing that I would reach this particular milestone before morning. 20,000 hits in six weeks. I really appreciate everyone who's bothered to read this blog, to link to this blog, and to give me feedback at I thank you, my Basset-Beagle Luke thanks you, and I hope you'll enjoy the second act.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Richard Pryor Is Dead

When I was a kid, Pryor was the very byword of transgression. More then anyone, he taught me the wondrous subversive power of a joke, how the jester can say what no one else at court could say. If you've ever seen the excellent film Wattstax, about the Stax Records concert at the L.A. Coliseum in the Summer of 1972, then you realize what a politically aware comic Pryor, who serves as a kind of ghetto tour guide in the film, was. But he wrapped his politics inside his confessional comedy, and by doing so, never became a bore.

Because he never flinched to political correctness, Pryor was able to say things about black culture that no one else, certainly no white man, could say. Could you imagine if George Carlin, a comic who was a contemporary of Pryors, had put out an album with the title "Supernigger"?

Because of the incredible way he used self-reference to speak complex truths about what it was to be black in America, I created what I like to call the Richard Pryor Exemption, which states that extra latitude must be given to any comic who comments outrageously on his own community. Under this exemption, I have said things about queers and crackers that would be terribly offensive from anyone who wasn't. A queer or a cracker, that is.

One of the nicer aspirations you could have in your life would be to say as much about what it is to be who you are in America as Pryor said about who it was to be him. Undoubtedly, we'll all fail.

Well, I Saw The Movie.

It was as good as I’d heard and expected. Heath Ledger should be at the top of the Oscar list, and Michelle Williams deserves Best Supporting Actress, for sure. Jake Gyllenhaal is also excellent, but unlike Ledger, he isn’t called on to carry a physical manifestation of guilt and self-doubt with him through almost the entire film, an amazing labor.

Which brings me to the important part the physicality of the story plays in this film. We see in this movie, in a way that film was invented to capture, how much these two men are indeed physical creatures, at the mercy of their body’s limits in the harsh environment of the mountain, and at the mercy of the way their physical desires betray them once the mountain cracks them open to each other. It’s what makes the performances so compelling to watch. You see Ledger’s Ennis trying to cut the desires out of his flesh by punishing his body; he throws himself manically into backbreaking physical labor, even when other, less taxing opportunities arise, in an attempt to crush what lies within him. When he’s not sweating, he’s medicating his wounds in a bath of whisky and beer. Jack seeks to tame himself by mastering the bulls he rides in the rodeo ring, a battle that he finally gives up, in the same way he accepts more easily than Ennis the limits of his will and the crooked nature of his timber. So much of the physical contact we see between Jack and Ennis is almost fighting; these men, who come from a culture where bodily work is valued above all and a man is proven by what he can stand, both feel deeply undermined by their inability to break their physical attachment. They get literally sick with need for each other. Whatever argument has ever been made about natural or unnatural attraction is made mute by the way these two strong men are made weak in the face of their own natures.

The portrayal of the Western landscape was another intrusion of this natural world into the film, and Ang Lee has beautifully captured the Kodachrome existence of bleak poverty and exquisite beauty that was the West not too long ago. Many of the scenes looked like the snapshots of my Seventies boyhood, shot at my grandparents trailer up on the Kamas River in Northeastern Utah. The art direction of the film is detail perfect (if you’re a car nut like me, you can tell the bones of this story through the succession of period trucks in different states of repair that the two characters drive) , and the cinematography is shaded with a look of slightly dated film, a fuzzy edge that captures beautifully the thin air of the high altitudes.

Certainly I recognized a bit of myself in the characters, an alternate universe version of myself, of my more bitter and self-destructive elements. I wonder how I would have reacted, as a deeply closeted nineteen year old, if I had fallen in love like these two do. At nineteen, I was a Mormon missionary shipped off to the French West Indies, and I can only imagine the hell I would have found myself in if I had, say, fallen into love with one of my missionary companions. I can’t imagine what my reaction would have driven me to. It was hard enough working it all out on my own, without having to carry a love like Jack and Ennis’s through the crucible, the same crucible that left those two so deeply damaged. In one of the great climatic moments of the film, Jack and Ennis erupt into a wounding dispute, as Ennis realizes what his love of Jack, and his refusal to acknowledge that love, has cost him. It was bad enough letting down my family, community, and religion by accepting who I was. I can’t imagine the pain of letting down my one true love.

After the film I drove up to my old rugby practice grounds in the hillsides of Elysian Park. It was one of those winter days in Los Angeles, the bright, dry, smog-less days that remind you that you do, indeed, live in the West, when you can see the gray San Gabriel Mountains that ring the city, and you feel briefly a connection to the land that exists down under all that concrete. As I watched those slopes grow pink in the late afternoon light, the vaulted bridges over the Los Angeles River arrayed like natural arches marching to the South, I thought of how my ancestors must have found themselves when they crossed the plains out of civilization and into this foreign landscape. “I am a stranger in a strange land” Moses said as he fled into the deserts of Sinai. It’s a sentiment, no matter how long I live here, no matter how elaborate a life I build, that I cannot ever, finally shake.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Their Anger Strategies

If there is one thing about Brokeback Mountain, even before it's in wide release, this movie has revealed a lot about people, and where they stand. Apparently, "Christians" are being warned to keep their "charity" in check:

It's important to let people know the truth about this film, according to Dick Rolfe of the Dove Foundation, but evangelicals shouldn't overreact. Hollywood would love to see Christians object to "Brokeback Mountain" the same way they did to The Last Temptation of Christ...Any success that that movie had at the box office," Rolfe said, "has been attributed to the amount of attention and protesting that Christians did exhibit toward the film. So we have to be very careful not use our anger strategies to a point where they boomerang on us."

Could someone, anyone, please explain to be what exactly is Christian about having an "anger strategy"? How is anger Christian? There is exactly one instance in all the New Testament when Christ shows his temper. It's when he clears the moneychangers from the temple. That's right, the only thing that ever made Jesus visibly mad was people using religion to make money. The long-term effect of the rise of the religious right may very well be the enormous damage they do to the Christian message. "Anger strategies" do not an attractive theology make. Maybe Christianity is actually dying, and all we are left with is these bitter enders. I don't know any other real explanations for how such a powerful and wealthy group of people as American Christians can suffer from such an enormous persecution complex. It makes no sense. Or if you accept radical critiques like those of Sam Harris, it makes perfect sense.

Ah, The Bland Face Of Evil

Instant Karma courtesy of Wonkette.

What Do Queer Cowboys Mean?

Brokeback Mountain is out here in Los Angeles, and to be honest, I’m terrified.

I’m a seventh generation Mormon. My family is scattered across the windswept intermountain West, where they settled after their forced migration from Illinois. The first train of Mormon pioneers to enter the Salt Lake Valley were lead by an ancestor of mine, and I lived in a neighborhood in Salt Lake that was named after my great-great grandfather. To me, the West is Zion, and I was raised with a sense of the holiness of these high, dry, mountains. At many troubling times in my life, I’ve returned to the West and sought the comfort of its granite shoulders. Be it my troubled sixteenth summer spent on an Idaho potato farm, our the lost years of my early twenties when I worked the ski resorts and relied on the power of the landscape for sustenance and order, I have a connection with the mountain West that runs to the bone.

I also have bred in me the casual homophobia of the place. When I was in the closet, the small town rural life of the West to me was both an idyll of masculinity, and a talisman to ward off my own doubts that welled up from the consciousness of being gay. Even though I struggled to make my way in the wider world, attending school in the East, living in Los Angeles, as long as I was in the closet, I always had this idea in my mind of my mountain home as refuge, an escape hatch. I could, if I had to, run away to my rural past, and hide in the stern social discipline of a small town, far from temptation. Of course, I would have ended miserable, as miserable as the characters of Ennis and Jack in Brokeback Mountain. But as a young man, like them, I did not know that. I was sorely tempted by the seductive but brutal simplicity of the place, and the hopes that if I was just tough enough, toughened by the unforgiving landscape of the West, I could hide from myself in its long shadows.

When I read Annie Proulx’s short story, if floored me, because it ripped off the false view I had of the sanctity of this land. That sanctity existed in ways I hadn't imagined. I had lived the myth of the West as Zion, and even though I had fled this refuge and accepted my nature, I still held in the back of my mind this conceit of Western purity, forged on the hard anvil of an unforgiving land. What was so disturbing about the story, and liberating, was that here was a different, though equally tough kind of purity; the relationship between Jack and Ennis has all the power of a natural communion, the kind of power that Mormons had also sought in the mountaintops.

Outsiders don’t understand the impact the landscape of the West can have on you, the flayed loneliness of the place. It rips the protective hide from your back, and makes you more dependent on and susceptible to others. It tests you, and if you are lacking, it can be unmerciful. I won’t give anything away about the movie by saying that these two men in it are put to just that test, with disastrous results. But what kicked me in the gut was how, for that summer on the mountain, they were able to find it, that elusive refuge that people from time immemorial have sought in granite peaks.

The Mormons sought to carve a refuge out of the West, a place where they could live, love, and believe as they sought fit. The power of Annie Proulx’s story is that its characters also seek a refuge, a place for two men to fall in love in this back breaking landscape. The landscape not just of the West, but of a nation and society that seeks to destroy them for what they are. I've learned as a Mormon and I've learned as a gay man, that sometimes, all we have is that moment alone on the mountain. Jack and Ennis are lucky in an untold fashion, that they had someone to share it with.

To see so many things I value, reflected in one place, scares the hell out of me. I’m afraid, that if I disappear into a dark theater to watch this film, I won’t ever come out again.

P.S. Well, I saw it. Read what I have to say.

P.P.S. Welcome Towleroad Readers. Please check out my newly released documentary, "Straight Acting" about gay men who play violent contact sports. You can find a summary of it here, read a review here and buy it here. It's a War On Christmas bargain at only $9.95!

Brothers And Sisters, I've Been Born Again!

Finally, this madcap mashup we call "Creation" makes sense. Finally, an intelligent designer worthy of our devotion. I testify to one and all, the holy truth of the one true faith, the squiggly answer to all your prayers, the most down deity, the
Flying Spaghetti Monster!

Tip courtesy of Gaywaspiness.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Gay Marriage Creche

Two Josephs and their adopted Cambodian baby, Courtesy of Sadly No! Too cute for words!

It Was 25 Years Ago Today...

Why does this make me want to ball like a baby? I just can't abide the deaths of musicians. Or writers. Or anyone who inspired me or positively changed my life. I guess that explains why I'm so rarely upset at the deaths of politicans.

As if it wasn't already sad enough, there's also this:

They are pulling the Routemasters out of business in London, the iconic red double-decker that shimmied at a stop like a hula dancer and let you jump on and off at will. They sited the safety of the open rear platforms as the reason.

Bullshit. Life isn't safe.

Next Up , A Mr. Shunned Samaritan Contest

This rather trollish Massachusetts pastor

is furious, furious! at the horrible power imbalance between queers and straight people. It's not all those gay heads of state, gay titans of Fortune 500 companies, gay military leaders, and gay religious power brokers that tick him off. Because, ya know, they don't exist. Rather, it's the awesome power of homo beauty pageants and promotional contests that stick in his craggy craw, pageants and contests like "Mr. Gay Universe".

So, hoping to fight fire with fire, he's come up with the perfect vehicle for Heterosexual tolerance. You guessed it, a Mr. Hetero contest!

These putatively straight fellows will be judged on a plethora of talents, such as how many Oprah magazines they can tear in half, and how many uses they can come up with for duct tape.

I bet I could name a few uses for duct tape that the good reverend is not familiar with.

No word yet on what tests will be administered to prove contestants Heterosexuality. I would suggest a trick question. Ask the contestants to finish this sentence:

At first I was alone, I was ________.

Available for sale at the Mr. Hetero contest will be these T-shirts: